Saturday, April 22, 2017

My Budget Rule(s)

Privilege shows itself in a lot of ways. I've recently become aware of another; one in the long list of previously unknown privileges. And it came in the most random dose of clarity. I'd just paid off the excessive amount of debt I'd racked up on my credit card, feeling those first moments of sweet relief pass over me. I'm still feeling that relief today, but it was quickly overshadowed by a new, stubborn desire to never get into that position again. I literally couldn't have bought a cup of tea without maxing myself out. Not a great way to be in.

It was in that moment that it really hit me; I have absolutely no clue how to save money. My ma has made attempts to show me, but when it came down to it I just didn't feel like listening. At that point in time there wasn't the necessity to listen. That right there is privilege. I've never known the feeling of being hungry. And no, I don't mean hungry like "I missed breakfast". I mean hungry like "I missed breakfast and lunch for the past two weeks because I'm trying to keep the power on". Luckily that's something I still have yet to experience, but I'm closer now than I've ever been. Not out of necessity, mostly cause I suck at budgeting.

Or, I did.

Now I've got myself a plan, one I'm sticking to. It turns out that's kind of the whole thing. Making the list of what to spend money on (and what not to) is easy. Keeping yourself in check is where it gets hard. A year and a half ago I still would have found it enormously difficult. But things have changed since then--for the better, I think. For one thing I'm not so selfish. Maybe my parents would disagree, but it takes an amount of selfishness to consistently ask mom and dad for money without changing the spending habits that lead to asking in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I'm still taking quite a bit from my parent's bank account, but it's an already agreed on amount and the only time I've had to ask for more in the last few months is the result of a flat tire in need of replacement.

I'm also a little more proud, and little more hardworking. I actively ask for shifts at work, I don't let people guilt me into spending what I don't need to spend on. Part of that comes from surrounding myself with people who have the values I want, even if I don't necessarily have them yet. My boyfriend will always put the time in to doing something right instead of sloppy. My roommates all work hard enough to justify playing hard. One just got accepted into her top choice of Master's program out in Texas. My best friend is currently living her dream, making money during the summer and travelling the rest of the year. She saw where she was and decided it wasn't what she wanted. That mindset is true for my coworkers as well; the ones I'm close to are the ones who aren't going to be working at a pizza place the rest of their lives. I know that sounds a little snotty, but the people who have been there years and years are the same ones who aren't moving forward. That's a fine thing as long as they know that's where they want to be, but that's not where I want to stay.

I'm using that drive to stick to my budget, which is actually just a rule. 

It's a pretty simple one, mostly because I don't have too many expenses (thank you ma and dad). They handle my cellphone, rent, and car insurance. That's a huge chunk of money that I used to just spend. Here is the rule to stop that nonsense: any tip money in bills larger than $1 get saved. Any $1 bills that add up to more than $10 get saved too. The second I put my paycheck in the bank I pay whatever utilities/groceries/gas/unexpected expenses I have on my credit card. Half of what's left gets put into savings, and whatever's left is for fun times. That's an important bit; always have something set aside for fun adventure time. I'd drive myself crazy without it, even if it's something as simple as doing homework in a coffee shop instead of at home.

All of this falls under my umbrella rule: Anything I put in savings, STAYS IN SAVINGS. That shit ain't for small adventures; it's for the big necessities. Maybe I need to chip in with tuition, maybe my car decides to die, or maybe I just like the look of a full bank account. It's the first time I've been able to stick with something so long, and it's really jumped up my "proud of myself" factor.

I know this doesn't help those of you who are actual real-world adults in need of a real-world budget, but for someone like me who's just starting out, it's a great first step.

Hope your rules are worth sticking to, friends.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thoughts on Feeling

How do you make decisions? There are a lot of ways it could go down: a tiny voice in your head pointing you in the best path, a tug on the heartstrings, a series of logical thoughts getting processed together, maybe a telltale shift in your gut.

My personal belief is we all fall on a spectrum somewhere between Thinking and Feeling. I say spectrum because I it's incredibly rare to find someone who will always do one or the other. Of course I've met the extremes: my friend (let's call her Victoria) who can't make a quick decision to save her life because there will always be lists and diagrams and thoughts on each option which need to be individually assessed. Opposite Victoria there's Cori, who's first impulse is also her last. No thoughts, just a gut reaction. As in most areas of life, the extreme is not where you want to be. One side or another is fine, just as long as you're not cemented in to a single process.

Me personally, I make most decisions on a Feelings basis. My gut and my heart are my two main ladies; they let me know what I want and need. Excitement and curiosity always lead me to the right books. When I'm feeling overwhelmed I stop all the nonsense in my head and go for a walk. If I get a chocolate craving then I'm having some chocolate.

That being said my brain still plays a major, if secondary, role in the process. The best example I have right now is when I realized I wanted to date my boyfriend. The feelings were there, mainly a deep happiness whenever he was around and the want for that to continue, but before the actual decision was made I had to let my brain step in. That's my process; I go to the Feelings side of the spectrum for the big picture, Thinking for the details. That helped me answer the important questions, questions that needed answering if I didn't want to regret it down the road: am I ready to be in a committed relationship? Has he moved on from his ex? Is it worth risking the friendship if he isn't in to me? That's some serious shit to process, and thinking it through was the right path to take. Because even though my instinct usually takes me in the right direction, it can only take me so far. Since I know my emotions are the dominant force I stop and focus on what my brain is telling me too. It's a deliberate process.

What I'm trying to say is there's no right way to think as long as you make the effort to know what type of thinker you are. We have to know what our box is if we can hope to look outside it.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Turns Out I Like Coffee

Story time: When I was a sophomore in high school I despised country music. I hadn't really listened to a lot of it, true, but that didn't stop me from hating like a twitter troll. Fast forward to the summer and I'm working my first job as a maid, mostly doing laundry in a basement. There were a lot of shitty parts of that job: cleaning the honeymoon suite, that time someone left their mini fridge--stuffed full of leftover Chinese food--open to ferment and stink up the entire room. But the most dreaded time was spent working in that damned basement washing, drying, folding, folding and more folding the endless rounds of sheets. The only thing to break free from it all and mildly enjoy the work was to play the radio, a cheap boombox looking thing straight from 1992 that received a single, twangy, station. By the end of summer I'd listened to hours of country and I was hooked. I've loved it ever since, sometimes more than others, but always enough to jam out at our local hick bar.

This tends to happen with my tastes. The things I've passionately disliked wiggle their way into my heart. So it's been with country, beer (the only alcohol I could afford during my semester in Turkey), and now espresso. A single night when I needed a little more umph than tea could provide has suddenly turned into ordering a dirty chai for the taste alone! What next!? I start drinking coffee?! With just creamer!? I'd call bullshit on the whole thing if it weren't doing me so many favors. The absence of exhaustion is a beautiful thing. Besides, I like giving old things a new try. Call it one of the many ways I'm enjoying new tastes.

Now if only I turned into someone who enjoys running we'd really be in business.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

All Choices, Big and Small

Of the many ways Turkey changed me, the one that's been most apparent to me is how I'm more willing to experience the new. More importantly, to give the new a second chance. I bring it up because I'm sitting here, in this old-school coffee shop that's a hipster's wet dream, next to the man I've barely started dating, and drinking a coffee-ish beverage I don't entirely dislike. All of those things (okay maybe not the coffee shop but just let me have this one) belong in a category of my life I didn't think I'd achieve in the near future, if ever. Yet here I am.

This isn't a change many others have been able to notice mostly because I tended to put off a vibe of being into the new and ever-changing way of life. And to a certain point that's true. I did, after all, make the decision to fly across the world in the first place. The thing is, that's a biggie. I'm great at making those kinds of life-changing, massive choices that'll continue to affect my life for years. Taking out a large sum of money in loans, for example. Or going to an out-of-state college, away from all the friends and family I'd known in Nevada. Those were major transitions, but making the choice to try a dirty chai despite my hatred of coffee; that's not something I would have been able to do before. I would've stuck with my tea.

Honestly I would've stuck with a lot of things. I wouldn't have bought a new computer, I wouldn't have fixed my shitty front teeth, and I wouldn't be soaking up the happiness resulting from a certain boyfriend I'd like to be kissing right now. Admittedly that last one might end up being one of those big, life-changing decisions, but one thing that hasn't changed is my inability to soberly acknowledge the importance of the man I'm emotionally attached to. Don't worry, I'm working on it.

While I'm glad I've always been able to readily make a huge decision, these smaller changes to my daily routine are the ones I'm happiest about. The tiny things are what's shaping me into the person who makes those big choices, and so far that person has been kicking ass.

Hope you're all doing the same.